History of the World According to the Movies: Part 71 – World War II: POWs, Resistance Fighters, and Other Things

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1963’s The Great Escape famous for starring Steve McQueen in that iconic motorcycle scene where he’s chasing himself. Yet, it’s also known for it’s famous depiction of a great POW camp escape in which three tunnels were dug in the prisoners’ bunkers that were named Tom, Dick, and Harry. While it kind of does take liberties with the truth, I’m sure this film will be loved by generations. Nevertheless, POW camp prisoners in Germany considered escaping as a duty and would come up with a lot of creative ways to do so, some of those not shown in film.

I mainly did my movie history blog posts around World War II based on location but there are some aspects in which it isn’t possible, yet there are plenty of movies made pertaining to them nevertheless. In some ways, World War II movies don’t just have to be war movies. You can have prison movies set in POW Camps like Bridge on the River Kwai or The Great Escape with Nazi commandants and such. A lot of times you’ll always have at least one person who wants to escape but some may not have the kind of bad luck William Holden did. You have movies with Resistance (mostly French) freedom fighters who’ve had enough with Hitler’s occupation and if Hitler was in a theater, they wouldn’t hesitate to blow it up to bits. Then you have spy stuff with internationally assembled crack teams of soldiers played by some of the most famous names in cinema also possibly trying to blow something up. Or possibly stealing some secrets from the Nazis. Either way, there would have to be a Nazi uniform change at some point in the plot. Still, while there are plenty of movies about these things, there are plenty of stuff they tend to get wrong, which I shall make note of accordingly.

Resistance Movements:

Everyone in France supported the French resistance and the Free French movement. (The truth is most French mostly remained neutral at least in the beginning up to D-Day even though they certainly didn’t like being occupied. Also, the French Resistance mostly consisted of young people.)

Else Gebel was a political anti-fascist prisoner who was sympathetic to Sophie Scholl’s plight. (Unlike the German movie Sophie Scholl, it’s plausible that Gebel was a Gestapo mole. Then again Sophie probably wouldn’t have known that.)

Resistance movements were only on the Allied side. (Actually there were people who did have resistance movements but joined the Axis powers. People like Indian Independence leader Chandra Bose for instance. You can see why he isn’t remembered. Also, you have the White Russians.)

Resistance movements were all united in a common goal and seldom fought amongst each other. (Some countries actually had more than one movement and it wasn’t unusual for them to end up fighting each other as well. According to TTI: “China had so many turncoats-turned-resistance fighters-turned-bandits that the historical community generally wrings its hands and splits it up into local and regional warlords, nationalist guerrillas, communist guerrillas and Chinese Communist Party guerrillas, with some room for overlap.”)

Norwegian “limpet mines” gave off big explosions on German ships. (Contrary to Max Manus, according to Imdb: “Such mines contained only a small amount (4 kg) of explosives and were placed on a target ship’s hull beneath the water line. In that position, even a small hole can do a lot of damage (in part due to the water pressure surrounding the hull).” But filmmakers can’t be satisfied with a small amount of explosives so if it doesn’t blow up spectacularly, it’s not worth seeing.)

Jens Christian Hauge was in the Norwegian resistance in 1940. (He joined the resistance later because he was in jail in 1940.)

The Oslo harbor was brightly lit to help Norwegian resistance members sabotage German ships. (Unlike in Max Manus, Oslo had a blackout enforced in case of long awaited Allied bombing raids. Max and his friends probably had to work in the dark.)

POW Camps:

World War II prisoners were treated in accords with the Geneva Conventions or at least had a right to. (The Japanese weren’t subject to the Geneva Convention and POWs until the 1950s and treated their prisoners horrifically {though this had more to do with them being under a fascist military dictatorship}. As for Japanese POWs, they didn’t expect to be treated as anything other than shit to begin with though the Japanese government at the time couldn’t care less about their fates. Still, treatment of them varied by country, though no Japanese POW wouldn’t want to be held in captivity by the Chinese or Soviets.

As for the Germans, while they generally kept to the Geneva Convention when it came to US, UK, French prisoners or what not until perhaps close to the end though treatment did vary from camp to camp. Yet, the Nazis didn’t believe the Geneva Convention applied to Eastern Europeans so captured Red Army soldiers usually ended up as slaves or starved in death camps at best {this is why they’re considered Holocaust victims. Also, while 5 million Soviet POWs were taken, only 2 million were liberated by the end of the war}. Those who were liberated were sent to filtration camps that were effectively high security prisons until they were cleared or condemned. Those who were cleared were cleared {consisting of more than 90% of Soviet POWs}, were freed and sometimes re-drafted. Those who were condemned could be executed, sent to a Siberian gulag, or stripped of rank and sent to a penal regiment {which was for mid-rate crimes like surrendering or retreating when fully capable to fight}. Those in penal regiments had hard, dirty, and dangerous jobs with a high death rate. This would entail penal tank crews being sent out with their hatches shut to prevent them surrendering again while penal infantries were tasked with playing a deadly game of minesweeper. Maybe the Japanese had the right idea with committing suicide as far as the Russians were concerned. Italian POWs in German custody were also treated poorly. Soviet prison camps were unsurprisingly harsh to Axis prisoners that many would try to surrender to other Allied countries like Britain or the US. Their treatment of Axis POWs consists of basically what you’d expect in Stalinist Russia. Then you have the Katyn Massacre of Poles that happened while Russia was allied with Nazi Germany.)

The three guys who got away in the great escape were from the British Commonwealth. (Contrary to The Great Escape, the guys who got away were Dutch and Norwegian. Most were killed, executed, or sent back though.)

The great escape happened during the summer months. (The actual escape actually occurred in March when there was still snow on the ground. Most of the escapees trying to run across country were forced by deep snow to leave the fields and go onto the roads as well as into the hands of German patrols. Oops!)

Escapees during the great escape were all shot in a common space at one time. (50 were shot in many different places, sometimes alone or in groups.)

Executions of great escapees were conducted by uniformed German troops using a Spandau machine gun. (Actually contrary to The Great Escape, they were conducted by Gestapo agents using pistols at close range not with a machine gun in Ramboesque fashion.)
It wasn’t unusual for Allied prisoners to assault German guards during an escape. (Contrary to The Great Escape, Allied prisoners actually avoided doing this at all costs since such actions would be tantamount for inviting execution or at least some time in a highly unpleasant German military prison like Colditz if lucky.)

Italian prisoners in Allied POW camps were considered civilians once Italy joined the Allies. (Sorry, Major Battiagila, but your country’s allegiance doesn’t exempt you from being tried for war crimes as you said in Von Ryan’s Express.)

POWs in German prison camps always wanted to escape for some reason. (Actually it was their duty to try to escape and would go through many creative ways to pull it off. Believe me, I’ve seen Nova episodes on this.)

Officers and enlisted men would be in mixed quarters in every German POW camp. (The Germans always segregated officers and enlisted men in separate POW camps.)

A group of Allied prisoners at a German POW camp formed their own soccer team that won against Germans for respect. (Well, there’s a movie about this called Victory, but there wasn’t an Allied soccer team and to my knowledge I don’t think Pele served in World War II, let alone do time at a German prison camp {seriously why?}. Yet, there was a Ukranian POW soccer team but they beat their resident Nazi captors miserably and repeatedly that they ended up arrested, tortured, and executed by the Gestapo as well as taken to work camps.)

Espionage:

Ian Fleming was a WWI vet by the time he joined the 30 Commando Unit. (Though Fleming is seen wearing ribbons of the 1914-1918 War Medal and Victory Medal in Age of Heroes, he was born in 1908 and would’ve been too young to fight since he was only 10 when the war ended.)

British spy Violette Szabo was tall blonde. (She was a brunette who was less than 5’5.” But she’s played by British actress Virginia McKenna {the woman from Born Free} in a biopic about her. She was a widow of a French soldier as well as a British spy who underwent two missions in occupied France. She was captured by the Germans on her second mission who interrogated, tortured, and deported her to a concentration camp in Germany. Still, the film Carve Her Name with Pride doesn’t show her fate in Ravensbrueck concentration camp which was execution by firing squad at the age of twenty-three but it was made in the 1950s. Her companions were gassed.)

A Polish spy at Bletchley Park passed crucial secrets to the Soviet Union during the Enigma decryption. (Actually contrary to the 2001 Enigma, the traitor was actually a guy named John Cairncross who’s British.)

The OSS was around before Pearl Harbor. (It was founded in 1942.)

MI6 was a reliable intelligence agency during WWII. (Actually in 1939, the Nazis had already exposed MI6’s networks in Europe and the Special Operations Executive took over functions in wartime. Thus, you wouldn’t want to report secrets to MI6 but the SOE.)

Ulysses Diello was a valet to the British ambassador in Turkey who passed secrets to the Germans as Agent Cicero. (Yes, there was an Agent Cicero who was a valet to the British Ambassador to Turkey and was an immensely successful spy. Yet, unlike what 5 Fingers suggests, he was actually Kosovo born Albanian Elyeza Bazna who spoke very poor English and was far from the perfect facsimile of an English gentleman as James Mason’s portrayal. Also, that part about the pursuit after Agent Cicero flees the British Ambassador’s residence is pure fiction.)

War Crimes Trials:

German soldiers were executed for the Malmedy massacre during the Battle of the Bulge. (Actually while there were Germans found guilty as well as sentenced to death, no death sentence was carried out so Marlene Dietrich wouldn’t have to worry so much in Judgment at Nuremberg.)

Wehrmacht officers would disguise themselves as SS officials during the Nuremberg trials. (Actually SS officers would try to disguise themselves as Wehrmacht officials to hide their involvement. At Nuremberg, you’d rather be an ordinary soldier than an SS official.)

Miscellaneous:

World War II soldiers lit their cigarettes with butane lighters. (Butane lighters weren’t invented until the 1950s.)

Air raid sirens always gave a continuously constant sound. (Most of the sirens were hand cranked and gave variable sound when cranked hard 5 times and slacked off 5 times.)

Nazi sympathizers were fans of Chopin’s music. (Contrary to Shining Through, most Nazi supporters would’ve detested Chopin for his Polish and French ethnicity alone.)

WWII bombing crews always stood at a good chance of surviving. (If it’s World War II and you find yourself on a bombing crew, make sure you get your affairs in order and make your peace with the Almighty because less than 50% of them managed to survive their tour.)

German soldiers used night vision scopes in World War II. (Well, not exactly though they were around in Nazi Germany at the time. Still, these infrared scopes were clumsy, very heavy, rare, and reserved for special ops. Also, it’s inconceivable any would’ve been stationed near a glorified officer’s brothel.)

Combat squads could travel in broad daylight and allow enlisted men to talk a lot. (Unlike the journey in Saving Private Ryan, squads would never be allowed to travel during the day time because they’d risk exposing themselves to the enemy. They usually would travel at night in order to go unprotected by the enemy. Also, arguing with your captain during such a mission would’ve resulted in you getting court-martialed.)

World War II military vehicles had radial tires. (Radial tires were patented in 1915 but they weren’t used on vehicles until the 1960s.)

Monopolization of the radio during combat was always a good idea. (Radio nets were shared with the entire squadron during combat and were only to be used in emergencies or by a commanding officer. To describe everything you’re doing while crowding out what others in your squadron are doing, would lead to your squad mates beating the living crap out of you back at the base.)

Aerial torpedoes were designed to attack airfields. (They were made to attack ships and were launched at low-level waters, not to attack land based targets.)

Military nurses had long flowing hairstyles during the war. (They weren’t permitted to have long flowing hair styles while in uniform. Rather the permitted length of hair had to be just above their collars. Thus, they either had to wear it up or cut it. As for makeup, they either were allowed to wear skin tone cosmetics or none at all.)

Nobody smoked during World War II. (Contrary to Pearl Harbor, most people smoked during the 1940s. The only people who didn’t smoke in 1940s movies, were those who hadn’t yet entered puberty. To have nobody smoke in a World War II film is perhaps one of the greatest historical sins a filmmaker could commit. Yes, I know smoking is bad for you, but still.)

Mistreating civilians was a violation of the Geneva Convention at this time. (No, the revision of the Geneva Convention in regard to civilians wasn’t adopted until 1949, unfortunately.)

Soldiers always wore their helmets buckled. (It was common for soldiers to leave their helmets unbuckled due to the common belief that the helmet would break a soldier’s neck when it reacted to a concussion due to a nearby explosion.)
During the war, people rode on bicycles with rubber tires. (By a certain point in the war, only wooden tires would be available, especially in Europe.)

You could easily pick out a Gestapo. (Gestapo usually wore civilian clothes so, no.)

Foreign girls always went for American GIs, particularly if he’s the white protagonist.

During special operations, an Allied soldier could always find a Nazi uniform to fit him perfectly as a disguise.

Special operations always consisted of a group of people from different countries played by big named actors so no Allied country’s participation in the war goes unrecognized.

Despite being bombed, buildings would always have electricity and running water.

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History of the World According to the Movies: Part 70 – World War II: The American Home Front

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The 1989 film Fat Man and Little Boy is about the story of the Manhattan Project and the development of the Atomic Bomb. Paul Newman is seen here playing General Leslie Groves while a guy named Dwight Schultz plays the legendary Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer. Nevertheless, while Richard Joffe does get some things right, the story is more suited for his political viewpoints and it’s far from the historic truth. For one, it was Oppenheimer’s dream job to work in the Manhattan Project (while Groves would rather be leading combat troops) and he and Groves got along famously, despite being polar opposites in personality for they both wanted the same thing. Also, Oppenheimer and many of his fellow scientists didn’t have any second thoughts about dropping the atom bombs until after they found out about the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Also, Paul Newman was way too handsome to be General Groves.

Of course, while there wasn’t much attacking on US soil besides Pearl Harbor, it didn’t mean that there wasn’t much going on in the home front. Like the British, Americans did experience rationing, air raid drills, sending bacon grease and scrap metal to the war effort, women working in munitions factories as well as families waiting for their loved ones to come home from the war. Yet, in other ways, it was unique with WWII propaganda films as well as movies from Hollywood, the USO, the role of racial minorities, and other things. You have Japanese American internment camps that were filled with a group of people who were displaced mostly due to ethnicity, culture, and they or their ancestors came from an enemy of the US at the time. Oh, and racism as well of suspicion of disloyalty did have a lot to do with it, too. Yet, the disloyalty of Japanese Americans was somehow put to rest since 20,000 of them fought in the war. You have the Tuskegee Airmen who were an elite unit aerial African American fighters whose overcoming of racism and adversity greatly contributed to their success. Then there’s the Manhattan Project which would be famous for developing one of the most deadly weapons in human history and usher in the atomic age. Nevertheless, while there are plenty of movies made about the American home front, there are plenty of inaccuracies in them as well, which I shall list.

Japanese American Internment:

Japanese Americans were the only group in America to be rounded to internment camps. (Actually, they were the only group to be interred who were mostly American born. German and Italian Americans were also interred but these numbers were small and only pertained to first generation or legal aliens.)

Almost all Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps during World War II. (Actually you may think this is true but not really. Most of the Japanese Americans interned were living on the West Coast, particularly in California where interment was popular among white farmers who resented their Japanese American counterparts {most Japanese Americans there at the time were farmers}. Not to mention, California wasn’t a state known by its friendliness toward Japanese Americans, just the opposite. Anti-Japanese bias on the West Coast was prevalent at this time. By contrast, Hawaii only sent a very small portion of their Japanese American population to internment camps {mostly prominent politicians and community leaders} since the area had been on martial law already and the risk of sabotage and espionage by Japanese residents on the islands was low. Not to mention, 35% of their population had Japanese ancestry and they were active in almost every sector of its economy. Had Hawaii had most of their Japanese American population interred, the then-territory would’ve had its economy crippled. Over 50,000 Japanese Americans on Hawaii remained undisturbed during the course of the war mostly due to being too economically viable to evict.)

The AAGPBL:

The AAGPBL played regulation baseball. (Contrary to A League of Their Own, they actually played a baseball/softball hybrid game. In its first years it was closer to softball.)

Racine won the 1943 World Series in a 7 game series against the Rockford Peaches. (It was in a 5 game series against the Kenosha Comets.)

The Tuskegee Airmen:

Not a single Tuskegee Airman was shot down by enemy fire. (66 Tuskegee Airmen were killed in action and they didn’t have an official flying ace even though one may have had enough unregistered kills to qualify. 25 of their bombers were lost to enemy fire.)

The Tuskegee Airmen was created to prove that blacks could effectively fly a plane. (They were trained by racist instructors who washed trainees out for the smallest mistakes to prove that African Americans were unsuitable to be fighter pilots. The result was hand-picked elite that wiped the floor with everything they met as well as were provided the best protection of all US Army Air Force fighter groups in Europe. Thus, contrary to Red Tails, their status as an elite fighting unit was almost purely accidental and as a result of training from hell.)

The Manhattan Project:

Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Reed Flutes” was played during the countdown of the Trinity atomic test in Alamogordo, New Mexico. (Actually it was Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade of Strings” but this is a minor error in Fat Man and Little Boy.)

Frenzied nuclear weapon expansion had been driven from the outset by pigheaded militarists intimidating morally sensitive scientists into doing what they knew to be wrong. (Sorry, Richard Joffe, but this is wrong. Nuclear expansion served the best interests of the military and the Manhattan Project scientists. Maybe they knew designing the bomb was wrong, but they greatly underestimated the bomb’s potential for wiping humanity which came to haunt them after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki.)

General Leslie R. Groves was a warmongering jerk and strutting martinet. (Yes, he was a jerk as Major General Kenneth Nichols called him “the biggest son of a bitch I’ve ever met in my life. I hated his guts and so did everyone.” He was known to be arrogant, socially awkward, as well extremely sarcastic. Yet, even he said that his commander was one of the “most capable individuals” he ever met. He’s said to be an organizer without equal as well as a tireless leader who held together the far-flung elements of the Manhattan Project, which employed 125,000 workers at facilities nationwide. Not to mention, he was the guy in charge of building the Pentagon which was the reason he was picked to lead the Manhattan Project in the first place. He was also a student of MIT before transferring to West Point, where he graduated 4th in his class. Then again, his security measures weren’t the most adequate since Los Alamos employees named Klaus Fuchs and David Greenglass {brother-in-law to Julius Rosenberg} were still able to smuggle atom bomb details to the Soviets, which Fat Man and Little Boy doesn’t address.)

General Leslie Groves was happy leading the Manhattan Project. (Groves actually didn’t want to lead the Manhattan Project, which he called, “Oh, that thing” and later chafed at being a taskmaster to “the largest collection of eggheads in the world.” He had longed to lead combat troops into war but his career had languished in the corps of engineers and his leadership of the Pentagon’s construction was a success, that he was the most likely candidate. He only changed his mind about the job when he saw that the Manhattan Project was his opportunity for glory and worked unceasingly to the end.)

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer and his fellow scientists were against the idea of the atom bomb and felt guilty about being a part of the Manhattan Project for the rest of their lives. (Well, yes, many Manhattan Project scientists did regret their roles in the Manhattan Project but only after the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were known, unlike in Fat Man and Little Boy. He would become a vocal opponent of the development of the even more powerful H-bomb though. But during the atomic bomb’s designing phase, Oppenheimer craved a job at Los Alamos so badly that he’d even be interested in obtaining an army commission to curry favor with General Groves. Once hired in 1942, Oppenheimer worked on the Manhattan Project with appropriate martial zeal as well as gave an idea of poisoning the Germans’ food with radiation. Most of his fellow scientists supported nuking Japan as well and had a big celebration after the bombs were dropped and Japan surrendered.)

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer was a quiet, moralistic, and easy going man. (Actually though kind of bohemian and witty, this was a guy who stole chemicals and tried to kill his own tutor for making him attend classes on experimental physics which he hated {he preferred theoretical}. This was while he was studying for his doctorate in physics at Cambridge University.  He also betrayed his friend Haakon Chevalier, a literature professor at Berkeley, as someone who had contacted him about sharing secrets with the Russians when asked by the FBI to name names during his time at Los Alamos {though he’d later regret this and said he invented this “cock and bull” story but Chaevalier’s career was ruined because of him, though Oppenheimer might’ve named him to protect his brother who was a known Communist Party member}. Also, contrary to Fat Man and Little Boy, he was a much more outgoing man than portrayed in the film. Interestingly, the said tutor was Patrick Blackett who’d  go on to win a Nobel Prize. Oppenheimer also had a humongous ego to boot despite having a voice like Mr. Rogers. And yes, he was associated with Communist politics in the 1930s as were both his wife and ex-girlfriend. His past association with leftist politics would later hurt him during the Red Scare as he opposed the Cold War arms race.)

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie R. Groves didn’t get along. (Contrary to Fat Man and Little Boy, despite their personality differences, they got along fine because they both wanted the same thing. Groves even praised him on his work in the Manhattan Project saying, “I was reproachfully told that only a Nobel prize-winner or at least a somewhat older man would be able to exercise sufficient authority over the many ‘prima donnas’ concerned. But I stuck to Oppenheimer and his success proved that I was right. No one else could have done what that man achieved.” Groves also got along well with the other scientists save Hungarian Leo Szilard.)

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer came up with the idea of implosion. (It was actually fellow scientist Seth Neddermayer who proposed the theory and his formulation came gradually.)

The experiment with the two hemispheres of beryllium surrounding a core of plutonium and held apart with a screwdriver was called the “drop” experiment. (It was called “tickling the dragon’s tail” but it’s by the expy for Canadian physicist Louis Slotin from Fat Man and Little Boy. Yet, though he died from an experiment relating to radioactivity, his death didn’t provide any cautionary warning for Oppenheimer since it happened on May 30, 1946.)

General Leslie Groves was a fit man. (Actually he weighed between 250-300 pounds in contrast to Paul Newman’s fit figure in Fat Man and Little Boy. Oppenheimer by contrast, weighed 116 pounds during the Trinity Test.)

J. Robert Oppenheimer’s ex-girlfriend Dr. Jean Tatlock committed suicide on January 1945. (She killed herself in January of 1944. Interestingly, she was Oppenheimer’s first love and the first person he ever dated but she suffered from depression {he married his wife Kitty a year after he broke up with Jean}. Still, it’s said he had an affair with her during his time in the Manhattan Project while some say that he only spent the night with her once in mid-June of 1943 after he was picked as head of the laboratory in Los Alamos. It’s highly disputed. We could say that he certainly cared about her and may have felt guilty on breaking up with her despite knowing that she certainly wasn’t relationship material. Still, while we can’t really confirm whether Oppenheimer and Tatlock were romantically involved during his time at Los Alamos, he did have an extramarital affair but it was with Kitty when she was married to her third husband, a physician named Richard Harrison. And it wasn’t until Kitty found out she was pregnant to Oppenheimer when she divorced Harrison and Robert became her fourth
husband in November of 1940. Still, despite only dating two women throughout his entire earthly existence, Oppenheimer certainly had an interesting love life.)

General Leslie Groves was a recipient for the Good Conduct Ribbon. (To qualify for the Good Conduct Ribbon, a soldier must be an enlisted man for at least 36 months. Groves was a West Point graduate and thus ineligible.)

General Leslie Groves met Dr. Leo Szilard in his hotel bathroom while the latter was in a bathtub and the former was on the toilet. (They actually met at the Metallurgy Laboratory at the University of Chicago along with the rest of the scientists. They had an antagonistic relation and Groves tried to fire him.)

The Trinity explosion took 2-3 seconds. (It actually took 40 seconds.)

Kitty Oppenheimer was an adoring wife who thought her husband Robert was the greatest man who deserved anything he wants. (Oppenheimer would’ve probably wished his wife to be like this since he kind of thought he was God’s gift to humanity who deserved anything he wanted. Still, she was known to drink and make catty remarks about her husband.)

Miscellaneous:

America had the best artillery, tanks, tacticians, or generals in World War II. (America had the most money, the highest rate of productivity, and perhaps the most adaptive and self-reliant rank and file of all the fighting armies.)

USAAF bombing crews usually survived with no ill effects. (Since the USAAF bombed German targets by day, they had a monstrously high casualty rate in the bomber department. There’s a reason why the policy for USAAF airmen was “25 and out” for most of the war. Once most airmen completed 25 missions, their war was over but the average crewman only had a 1 in 4 chance of actually completing his tour of duty. Yet, as the war progressed, 25 got upped to 30 and then 35. The average bombing crew got shot down in its 20th mission. American bomber crews were known to be notoriously fatalistic, having determined that after reaching the half-way point on their tours of duty, they were living on borrowed time.)

“Little Brown Jug” was recorded after Glenn Miller’s death. (Actually contrary to The Glenn Miller Story, it was one of his first bonafide hits in 1939, but the movie makes it clear where he got it from.)

WWII was a universally supported one in the US. (The US only went into the war at around Pearl Harbor and even then there were Americans who opposed the war either because they were pacifists or Nazi sympathizers. And yes, World War II did have its share of draft dodgers even in the United States.)

A PT boat’s main function was “to harass the enemy and buy time for a navy that was still on the drawing boards.” (This is sort of accurate but as Washington lawyer and WWII veteran Leonard Nikoloric said, “Let me be honest. Motor torpedo boats were no good. You couldn’t get close to anything without being spotted. I suppose we [Squadron Three] attacked capital ships maybe forty times. I think we hit a bunch of them, but whether we sank anything is questionable. The PT brass were the greatest con artists of all time. They got everything they wanted-the cream of everything, especially the personnel. But the only thing the PTs were effective at was raising War Bonds.”)

The United States military was integrated at this time. (Actually it was still segregated and would be desegregated shortly after World War II. However, many of World War II movies were made after that time and with the assistance of the US military like The Glenn Miller Story. However, such errors could be forgiven since the war was fought by Americans of all races and creeds anyway even if they didn’t fight in integrated units.)

Female cadets were in attendance at West Point at this time. (West Point didn’t start admitting women until 1962.)

There were no gays in the US military during World War II. (Actually the US military effort during World War II was one of the reasons why the gay community became a more prominent force in later years. Sure there was a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy but the war effort brought so many people away from their homes and into contact with people they wouldn’t have met otherwise, sometimes these were people like them. Also, gay US WWII vets include Rock Hudson, Gore Vidal, and others.)

The US Navy made a petty fuss about shirts. (Actually Mister Roberts is right about the US Navy’s fuss about shirts but it wasn’t out of pettiness. The navy’s medical branch actually found that shirts provide protection against burns in case of explosion.)

US soldiers would leave their sweethearts behind who faithfully waited for them to return home, while their men didn’t mess around. (This wasn’t 100% the case since there were soldiers who did cheat on their sweethearts {sometimes wives} or sometimes abandoned them altogether. Not to mention, sometimes the sweethearts weren’t so devoted either as you understand the concept of a “Dear John” letter. Then there’s the fact that 1946 saw a jump of divorces in the United States.)

“Fouled up” was a common phrase of American soldiers during World War II. (Contrary to Saving Private Ryan, I believe the correct terminology is “fucked up.” For God’s sake, Spielberg, were you aiming for a PG-13 audience? I mean what’s wrong with including swearing in a rated R movie, especially if the main reason for it is violence.)

During combat jumps, US paratroopers jumped out of planes one by one with the jumpmaster commanding, “Go! Go!” (The jumpmaster was always the first off the plane while the rest of the paratroopers immediately followed behind him exiting the plane as fast as they could in order to land as close together as possible. I know the one by one combat jump is always done in movies but paratrooping has never worked that way since it would result in the whole unit being spread out in various locations. Try locating the rest of your unit using that method.)

American soldiers used “thunder” as a challenge word to identify friendlies while “flash” was used as a response. (Contrary to Saving Private Ryan, it’s the other way around with “flash” as the challenge word and “thunder” as the response. The reason why “thunder” was chosen as a response word for identifying friendlies was because of the “th” sound which is nonexistent in German. Thus, if a German were to say, “thunder” to “flash” he wouldn’t be able to hide his accent.)

The US Army had a 113th Tank Division during this time. (There was never a US 113th Tank Division in WWII.)

The Pentagon was completed by 1942. (It wasn’t completed until 1943.)

Women factory workers in the US home front were treated decently by their bosses. (While the average US serviceman was paid $54.65 weekly, factory women were paid $31.50. Also, if they were working among men, there’s a possibility that sexual harassment was frequent in some places. I mean there were no laws against it.)

World War II was the first time when housewives took up work outside the home as their husbands went to war. (Despite the fact that women were expected to be housewives throughout most of human history, this wasn’t always the case, even in America. Even before World War II, many women worked outside the home, especially in times under financial ruin like the Great Depression or death in the family like a spouse. If you’ve seen Mildred Pierce, you know what I mean. It was just that more women were doing the more important jobs that would be normally reserved for men. Not to mention, before that time, many didn’t really consider women’s work as anything of relative importance.)

“Little Orphan Annie” was a 1940s radio show sponsored by Ovaltine. (Ovaltine dropped “Little Orphan Annie” and switched to “Captain Midnight” in 1940. That year “Little Orphan Annie” would be sponsored by Quaker Puff Wheat. Announcer Pierre Andre would also go to “Captain Midnight” in early 1940 since audiences identified him too much with Ovaltine. This detail would help set A Christmas Story to 1939 since The Wizard of Oz came out that year and there’s no mention of Pearl Harbor.)

Bing Crosby’s “Merry Christmas” album was released at around 1940. (It wasn’t released until 1945 and reissued in 1947.)

The Red Ryder BB gun had a sundial and a compass among its features. (The screenwriter for A Christmas Story confused the Red Ryder with another kind of BB gun that had these features. Thus, guns had to specially made for the film. Yet, the Red Ryder BB gun was real but it doesn’t have a sundial and compass.)

Indiana schools were integrated in 1939. (They weren’t until 1949 yet there are three black kids in Ralphie’s class.)

Window air conditioners were widely available at this time in the US. (Contrary to Lost in Yonkers, while window air conditioners were sold as early as 1938, they weren’t mass produced until after World War II.)

US Navy seamen were experienced swimmers. (US Navy seamen weren’t required to know how to swim and many didn’t during this time.)

Movies during this time were seen in a wide screen format. (Not until the 1950s.)

All American aircraft carriers had angled decks. (Not in World War II they didn’t. But there aren’t that many straight decked carriers left as attempts to preserver the USS Enterprise {most decorated warship in US history} into a museum as a museum all ended in failure.)

June Carter was 10 in 1944. (By this time, she would’ve been 14 or 15.)